A very public replication of the temporal pattern to people's regrets

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Abstract

Most people recognize that mistaken actions generally sting more than equally mistaken and consequential failures to act (Gleicher et al. 1990 Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 16, 284–295 (doi:10.1177/ 0146167290162009); Kruger et al. 2005 J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 88, 725–735 (doi:10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.725); Landman 1987 Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 13, 524–536 (doi:10.1177/0146167287134009)). At the same time, most people have some intuitive appreciation of Whittier’s claim that ‘For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been”’. As a result, few are surprised to learn that when people look back on their lives and identify what they regret most, they mention regrets of inaction significantly more often than regrets of action. Gilovich and Medvec (Gilovich & Medvec 1994 J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 67, 357–365 (doi:10.1037/ 0022-3514.67.3.357); Gilovich & Medvec 1995 Psychol. Rev. 102, 379–395 (doi:10.1037/0033-295X.102.2.379)) identified the overarching pattern that incorporates both intuitions: regrets of recent vintage tend to centre on mistakes of action, but long- term regrets tend to involve failures to act. We conducted a replication of Gilovich and Medvec in the field using a unique source: a new museum in Chicago devoted to psychological science. We replicated the significant interaction between action/inaction and temporal perspective, but the precise pattern of that interaction diverged from that reported earlier.

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This work was supported by a gift to Cornell University from Dan and Lisa Zelson.
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2023-06-21
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Royal Society Open Science
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replication, regret, judgment and decision-making
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Attribution 4.0 International
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